• aspersion •
æs-pêr-zhên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A spattering or sprinkling, especially of holy water. 2. That which bespatters or besmirches someone's character, slander, defamation of character.
Notes: This Good Word comes to us from the verb asperse "to sprinkle or spatter". The noun followed almost antonymical routes: (1) the sprinkling of holy water during a religious ceremony and (2) the bespattering someone with metaphorical mud. It is used today in the cliché to cast aspersions on someone, but below we will suggest a wider usage. There is an adjective, aspersive "defamatory, slanderous, maligning", as a remark aspersive to her integrity.
In Play: Remember that today's word basically means sprinkling or bespattering, "Ferguson didn't take the aspersion of muddy water on his new shorts well at all and chased the car that aspersed him three blocks before giving up." However, "slander" is the sense in which we are most likely to use this word: "The conversation around the water cooler is filled with aspersions about the way business is conducted at the firm."
Word History: Today's Good Word is obviously of Latin origin, this time from Latin aspergere "to sprinkle on, spatter" based on ad- "(up)to, on" + sparger "to strew, scatter." The past participle of spargere is sparsus "scattered", the origin of our word sparse. The Proto-Indo-European root (s)pregh- "scatter, sprinkle" from which spargere was derived contained a Fickle S that turned up in Sanskrit without the initial S as parjanya- "rain, the rain god". We find it at the base of Danish fregne and Swedish fräkne "freckle", not to forget freckle itself.
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